Becoming a British citizen is a significant life event where, apart from allowing you to apply for a British passport, this will provide you with the opportunity to participate more fully in the life of your local community in the UK, including the right to vote in general elections.

Once you have been granted British citizenship, provided you obtain a British passport, this will also allow you to travel freely in and out of the UK, without any risk of losing your citizenship. This is in contrast to holding Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), where ILR will still allow you to live and work in the UK on an indefinite basis, but you will lose the right to return if you live abroad for more than 2 years. Even if you have been granted settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), your leave will automatically end if you leave the UK for 5 or more years, or after 4 years if you leave the UK as a Swiss citizen.

There are, therefore, various advantages of British citizenship over ILR, including the right to vote, and to leave the UK for as long as you want without losing the right to return. You will also be able to get British citizenship for your children if they are born outside the UK.

 

What are the advantages of British passports?

The British passport is one of the most powerful passports in the world, allowing visa-free travel to multiple countries across the globe. It will also allow you to travel freely in and out of the UK after successfully naturalising as a British citizen.

Once you have completed the naturalisation process, you will be eligible to apply for a British passport, where you will no longer be able to enter the UK using your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) at the UK border.

Importantly, you will also not be able to enter the UK by presenting your naturalisation certificate. You must have either a British passport or apply for a certificate of entitlement.

 

What are the criteria to apply for British citizenship?

There are several statutory requirements that must be met when applying to naturalise as a British citizen, although the requirements are now much easier to demonstrate than ever before, especially the requirements around lawful residence. You must check that you meet and understand all of these requirements before you submit your application for British citizenship by way of naturalisation, where you must:

  • be aged 18 or over on the date of application, where you can only apply to naturalise as a British citizen if you are an adult, although an application to ‘register’ a child can be made at the same time as an application for an adult seeking to naturalise, provided the child meets the relevant criteria for registration;
  • have lived in the UK lawfully for the required period of time, either 5 years, or 3 years if you are applying as the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen, where you can meet the lawful residence requirement if you have been granted ILR in the UK;
  • have been present in the UK, physically, including the Isle of Man or Channel Islands, on the first day of the qualifying period, again either 5 years, or 3 years as a spouse/civil partner of a British citizen, before the date on which the application is received;
  • have not have had more than 450 days outside the UK in the 5-year period before making the application, or more than 270 days in the 3-year period if the spouse/civil partner of a British citizen, and no more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12-month period;
  • be free from any immigration time restrictions on the date that you apply and, unless you are the spouse/civil partner of a British citizen, have also been free from such restrictions for at least 12 months, where you will again meet this requirement if you have ILR;
  • make the UK your future home if your application is successful, where you intend to continue to live in the UK, unless you are the spouse/civil partner of a British citizen;
  • show that you have sufficient knowledge of language and life in the UK, where you must be able to communicate in either English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic to an acceptable level, and have passed the Life in the UK test, unless you are 65+, or you have a long-term physical or mental health condition preventing you from meeting these requirements;
  • be of good character, where you must have observed UK laws, and shown respect for the rights and freedoms of its citizens, such that any criminality, fraudulent behaviour or any other behaviour to suggest that you are not fit to be naturalised may result in a refusal;
  • be of sound mind, where you must usually have the capacity to understand the implications of your decision to naturalise as a British citizen.

 
When completing the naturalisation application form, you will need to provide the details of two referees who know you and can endorse your application, together with various documents in support of the requirements above, where applicable. If you are applying as the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen, you will additionally need to provide your spouse or civil partner’s current passport or naturalisation/registration certificate to show that they are a British citizen, plus your marriage or civil partnership certificate.

There is some discretion for certain requirements to be overlooked, for example, the sound mind requirement can be overlooked where it can be shown that it is in the applicant’s best interests to do so. However, if you apply on behalf of an individual for whom you are responsible who is not of sound mind, relevant details of their health condition, and of your role as their caregiver, will need to be provided.

In certain circumstances, some discretion may also be exercised over the residence requirements, including excess absences, being present in the UK on the first day of the qualifying period and immigration time restrictions in the last 12 months. Where you do not meet these requirements, you will need to explain why you believe that there are exceptional circumstances, providing additional evidence based upon the caseworker guidance which sets out how these scenarios might be considered. This can be found online at GOV.UK, although advice from an immigration specialist should also be sought.

 

What is the process to apply for British citizenship?

For a smoother and far quicker process, citizenship applications should be submitted online. However, if you live in the Channel Islands, Isle of Man or a British Overseas Territory, or you live elsewhere and want to apply by post, you can use Form AN. When you submit your application, you will be required to pay an application fee. You will also be required to enrol your biometrics information. UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will contact you with further instructions on how to enrol your biometrics after you submit your application.

All applicants applying to naturalise as a British citizen will need to enrol their biometric information to verify their identity. You will usually need to complete this part of the application process within 45 days of applying, where failure to do so will invalidate your application. In some cases, however, UKVI may be able to re-use biometrics previously provided with an earlier immigration application.

Having submitted your biometrics, where required, you should be given a decision on your application within 6 months. UKVI will write to you if they need more details about your application. Importantly, an application for British citizenship will not provide you with lawful immigration status while a decision is pending. This means that, before applying, you must ensure that you already have valid permission to remain in the UK until you have received a decision on your application and attended your citizenship ceremony.

If you are successfully granted British citizenship, you will need to attend a citizenship ceremony within 90 days. At this ceremony, you will be asked to affirm or swear an oath of allegiance to the British monarch, King Charles III, and to pledge your loyalty to the UK, promising to respect the UK’s rights, freedoms and laws. You will then be presented with your certificate of naturalisation as a British citizen. At this stage, you must return any BRP within 5 working days of receiving your naturalisation certificate.

 

How do you apply for a British passport?

To travel outside of the UK after being granted British citizenship, you will need to apply for a British passport or, alternatively, a certificate of entitlement to the right of abode. You will not be able to use your naturalisation certificate to re-enter the UK.

You can apply for a passport online at a cost of £75.50. You will need both your naturalisation certificate and the passport you used to come into the UK.

After you have paid and submitted your passport application, you will need to ask someone to confirm your identity. You must let the person know that they will receive an email from HM Passport Office telling them what to do, where they will confirm your identity online.

 

Are there any drawbacks to obtaining British citizenship?

Whether or not there are any drawbacks to obtaining British citizenship will depend on your circumstances. Importantly, before making an application, you should check whether your country of nationality allows dual citizenship. If not, you may lose or have to relinquish your existing nationality in order to become a British citizen. Equally, if the country of which you are a national continues to recognise you as one of its citizens, you may remain subject to certain duties, including an obligation to undergo military service.

Before applying for British citizenship, you must also factor in the cost and potential time investment that you may need to make to be able to meet all of the statutory requirements. The cost of an application for naturalisation is £1,250, together with an £80 ceremony fee.

Additionally, you will need to pay to take the Life in the UK test, at a cost of £50, unless you are exempt or have previously taken this test. If you were granted indefinite leave under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), you will not have had to meet the knowledge of language and life in the UK requirements as part of your application for settlement. This means that you will now need to meet these requirements before applying to naturalise.

Similarly, unless you are a national of a country on the majority English-speaking country list, or you have obtained a UK degree or are otherwise exempt, you may need to take a Home Office approved qualification in English from the Secure English Language Test (SELT) list at B1 CEFR or higher. Only English language qualifications on the SELT list will be accepted as evidence that you have met the language requirement. This will equate to more time and money, both in terms of studying and the cost of taking the test itself.

Overall, applying to become a citizen of the UK is an important and potentially costly decision, involving a considerable amount of commitment. You will, when applying, be agreeing to accept the responsibilities which go with citizenship, and to respect the laws, values and traditions of the UK. It is therefore important that you are equipped to play a part in community life and are able to communicate with the wider community. Being able to speak English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic is a very important part of this, and learning about Life in the UK will help you to understand what it means to be a British citizen.

If you apply for citizenship without having met both of these requirements, and you are not exempt from having to demonstrate knowledge of language and life in the UK, your application may be refused and you may not receive a refund of your application fee.

 

Advantages of British citizenship FAQs

Is British citizenship powerful?

Obtaining British citizenship will not only enable you to live and work in the UK on a permanent basis, it will allow you to participate more fully in the life of your local community, including the right to vote.

What can you do with a UK citizenship?

Having been successfully granted UK citizenship, you can apply for a British passport, enabling you to travel in and out of the UK. You can also vote in general elections and participate fully in the life of your local community.

Is it worth getting a British passport?

To travel outside the UK after being granted British citizenship, you will need to apply for a British passport or certificate of entitlement to the right of abode. You cannot use your citizenship certificate to travel.

What is the benefit of citizenship?

Becoming a British citizen is a significant life event where, apart from allowing you to apply for a British passport, it will give you the opportunity to participate more fully in the life of your local community in the UK.

 

Legal disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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As editor of Xpats.io, Gill is passionate about helping individuals and organisations overseas explore and pursue opportunities in the UK. She is a content specialist in the fields of immigration, law and business.